Extension of TRO against power hike sought | Inquirer News
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Extension of TRO against power hike sought

MANILA, Philippines—With the temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) power rate hike set to expire on Feb. 23, protesters are banking on an extension while waiting for the Supreme Court decision on the issue.

“With everything that is coming out, with allegations of market abuse and manipulation in the spot market, it would be grossly unfair for the consumers if Meralco would be allowed to push through with the rate hike as the TRO is set to expire this month,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes said in a statement.

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Meralco is scheduled to justify the rate hike before the high court.

Reyes said the TRO should be extended indefinitely until the high court releases its final ruling on whether Meralco’s P4.15 per kilowatt hour rate increase was unwarranted and unconstitutional.

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He said the lapse of the TRO would directly affect the consumers who were already billed in December with the first tranche of the rate hike.

Reyes also wants to know how much the power firm earned from its collections before the issuance of the TRO.

“How much were the total collections and what is Meralco doing with the funds? Have these been paid out to the generators? Are the funds earning interest somewhere?” he asked.

If the rate hike is found unconstitutional, Meralco would have to refund its customers.

Bayan said the main problem lies in the automatic pass-on policy that allows distribution utilities to automatically implement rate increases.

“The automatic pass-on policy should be scrapped as this is oppressive and unjust. Meralco has abandoned its mandate of buying power at the less cost because of the automatic pass-on privilege. It gets power at the highest price then passes the cost to consumers. It can bid as much as P62 in the spot market without fear of any consequences because it will merely pass on the cost to the end-users,” Reyes said.

He said the current privatized and deregulated power sector leaves everything to the “discretion and profit motives of big businesses” and that the government has abandoned its role of protecting consumers.

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In its comment to various petitions against the rate hike, Meralco warned of power interruptions due to the restraining order.

Meralco pointed out that since the Dec. 23 restraining order, it has been shouldering the generation, transmission and other pass through charges.

Meralco said the transmission company may stop transmitting if it is unable to pay for the transmission charges.

“The entire power industry may come to a screeching halt,” Meralco said.

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TAGS: Consumer issues, Electricity, Manila Electric Co., MERALCO, power, Supreme Court, TRO
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